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Address By Sierra Leone President, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah At The Passing Out Ceremony Of The Police Training School, Hastings On Saturday 4th February 2006
Feb 6, 2006, 13:45

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It gives me great satisfaction to join you on this memorable day. This ceremony provides further concrete proof of the dramatic progress that has been made towards overcoming our bitter legacy of the past and building a safer and better Sierra Leone.

Today also marks a milestone in the history of the Sierra Leone Police, as we take one more step towards meeting the targets we set ourselves for developing the manpower strength of the force. This achievement is a clear indication that the gap in the strength of the force which existed while UNAMSIL was here, has now been filled by the addition of these 405 police recruits who are passing out today. We have now attained the requisite manpower strength and we shall continue to make adjustments progressively.

As you already know, early last year my government launched a national poverty reduction strategy that is designed to reduce poverty and improve the quality of the lives of our people. In order to successfully implement this strategy it is essential that we create a safe security environment that will attract foreign investment and thus provide employment. Consequently, the work of the police is crucial to the process of national development and poverty reduction. Those who had been able to build up some wealth suddenly found themselves very poor after the war because of the lawless activities of a few. We are determined to see that this does not happen again. A new word that has found its way into the Krio language buff should be replaced by the rule of law which means everybody must obey the law and when they infringe the law then they must pay the full penalty. I want every member of the Sierra Leone Police Force, including todays graduands, to fully understand this. A state where people choose which laws to obey is a dangerous place to live in. We do not want Sierra Leone to fall into that category of states.

I congratulate the graduands and commend you for the hard work which was necessary to successfully complete your basic Police School training. You should be very proud and excited about your accomplishment and should look forward with anticipation to what lies ahead as you begin your new careers in service of the people of Sierra Leone. Your noble profession is essential not only for enforcing the laws but also for the preservation and maintenance of human rights principles and basic democratic freedoms.

The Assistant Inspector General of Police responsible for personnel in his address described the content of the training you have just completed. This training has surely prepared you to adopt a professional approach to your work. As police officers you are expected to display sound judgment in the use of your discretion at all times. You should never demonstrate bias, ill will, disloyalty or disregard for the rights of the people you serve. You must never obey instructions outside your chain of command. When in doubt, ask your superior officers for advice. You must also remember that you are being paid from the taxes of the people you serve. Thus you should look at yourselves as servants rather than as masters. Follow my example, I have always regarded myself as the Chief Servant of the people of Sierra Leone.

I would like to remind you that my government will continue to give the Inspector General and his senior management team full operational independence as is already spelt out in the Government Policing Charter which I promulgated in 1998. I assure you that there will be no undue interference from my government in the discharge of your normal duties. The cardinal principles of fairness, firmness, friendliness and commitment to duty should be your guiding principles as you discharge your duties at all times.

Let me also remind you all, of the saying that, "To whom much is given much is expected". Apart from the financial and material resources invested on your training, as a police officer you are bestowed with wide powers under the law. Above all, you are permitted to legitimately use force. This legitimate use of force may sometimes conflict with the exercise of the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens. For this reason you must always exercise caution and be certain that the force you employ is not only lawful and proportionate to the resistance encountered, but that it is used only as a last resort. When exercising the powers you have been given, you must remain cognizant of the fact that the basic principles of our democratic governance are founded on the freedom of the people and their basic human rights. Any violation of these rights, for whatever legitimate reasons, must be the exception rather than the rule.

The expectations of members of the public are high. It is essential that you do everything possible to live up to these expectations. You must demonstrate a high degree of neutrality in all your actions, particularly when dealing with matters that may involve sensitive political issues. I must note here that I feel very proud of the tremendous progress that has taken place over the past couple of years in the Sierra Leone Police. Over these years my government, mindful that a sound police system is the backbone of our governance reform programme, embarked upon the restructuring of the Sierra Leone Police. The restructuring seeks to provide an institutional framework for the Sierra Leone Police that will enable it to provide the long-term security needs of our country, all on sound democratic principles.

I must also note, with great pleasure, the police/community collaboration which has resulted in the formation of various police/community partnership boards throughout the entire country. I want to thank all partnership boards for your invaluable contribution. The Sierra Leone Police can only succeed if it wins the cooperation and confidence of the general public. Perhaps it is appropriate that I emphasize here, that security is the collective responsibility of Police Officers and members of the public alike. When insecurity exists, everybody is affected. We therefore need to work together to make sure that security is maintained at its highest at all times.

As we look to the future, it is your individual as well as your collective responsibility to ensure that our hard won peace is consolidated and maintained. Never again should we allow discord to escalate among us into the human tragedy we witnessed in the recent past. A fair and objective delivery of police services; impartial resolution of conflict, and the development of strategies for conflict prevention should be an important part of your role in society. My government will continue to do everything possible to give you the support that reflects the importance of your duties.

While congratulating you once again, let me acknowledge the fine leadership role of the Sierra Leone Police, for putting up such an impressive performance today. Finally, I thank the public for your support in adding splendour to this occasion. I look forward to your continued co-operation.

I thank you.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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